Become a Self-Made Graphic Designer – Run Your Own Business

Become a Self-Made Graphic Designer – Run Your Own Business

It was 3 years ago when I started to think about becoming a graphic designer. Well, that’s what I am now. I did not go to design school because I preferred to use the vast amount of resources that the web offers and experiment with new techniques by myself. In this 3 article series I would like to share my experiences with all those that are approaching the graphic design world, and provide suggestions on how to find the best resources and how to avoid errors. Today we will talk about the difficulties and satisfactions that are behind the realization of a successful business.

The three articles in this series:

#1 – Getting Started!
#2 – Marketing Yourself
#3 – Running your Own Business

Running Your Own Business

Run your own business

There are several cases of successful firms in the design market and hundreds of people inspired by their ideas. I can’t tell you what to do in order to become successful with your business, but I can share my experience and the errors that I’ve made, in hopes that you might avoid the same pitfalls.

Let’s start from the beginning: when is the right moment to launch a new business? It depends on two things.

First: How important are your own skills in your business? If you want to start a graphic design studio, for example, and you are the only graphic designer for the business, you can’t be successful if your background is made up of a few online Photoshop tutorials. Your friends might consider your work awesome, but this doesn’t mean that you’re a graphic designer, nor that you can match client needs.

Second: The idea. If you’re sure your idea is original, then you can start as soon as possible. In this case you might need a team of creatives that can support the idea. You will inevitably deal with another factor, money. A good graphic designer could start a design studio with a low budget, based on his skills. While a person with just an idea can’t realize it without a support staff, which costs money.

Regarding my experience, I started with no budget, and with no experience working on client projects. This is why I spent the first few months making errors and learning. The reason for why I didn’t wait was the opportunity I saw in the market for premium design resources. I couldn’t wait.

The best chance to run a successful business are when you have the right skills and knowledge, along with an original idea. If you also have a budget to invest, that’s perfect!

Is The Market Busy?

Absolutely not. Every day I discover new sites and business ideas in this market, realized by creative people. So why should we consider the market busy, with no space for new adventures?

A bad approach I often see is: “this idea works, let’s do the same!” I think someone can do something that already exist, if he’s sure to make the same thing better. Competition is a natural feature of every market. The thing to avoid is: “if he’s making money, I can make money doing the same things”. These kind of business are destined to failure. The best way to create a durable business is to find a niche.

Take WeGraphics, for example, it’s evident that it’s not the first site that offers premium content to subscribers. The majority of design services offer resources through premium subscriptions. After the success of psdtuts, lot’s of new sites started to offer premium content, like exclusive tutorials. The idea of a premium membership based income was something that inspired me too. At the same time I was attracted by the market of design resources. My thought was: there are tons of Photoshop tutorials online, but what I really need now are quality vectors, brushes and textures, because these resources can speed up my first clients’ projects. I can find great resources from well-known sites that offer stock images and more, but cost $2000 for a yearly account. I don’t have the budget for that. There are lots of freebies available, but the quality is generally low. There was an evident hole that a new business could have filled. The last question was? Would I pay 7$/month to get access to a library of top-quality design resources? Yes, so why shouldn’t other graphic designers? This is how the project started. Today I am the first client of WeGraphics, since I use our design resources every day.

So Do You Really Want to Start a New Project?

Just start! The first question is: what do I need? Often the answer is: time. Time to study, to make experiences in the field and work on small projects in the beginning. Time to better understand how the market works. If you think you’re ready, just find the best way to launch the project. Sometimes a good partner can represent the key to success. In my case, for example, even if I was able to create design resources and layouts in Photoshop, I had little knowledge of  html/css. The opportunity to work with my current business partner, Piervincenzo, the mind behind all of our technical stuff, showed me the potential of collaborating with other people. I decided to share my income with Piervincenzo, and since then I never regretted that decision.

My last piece of advise for young entrepreneurs: never make money your only objective. I have seen lots of projects born with money as the only aim. In most cases, even if there were great firms behind the idea, they failed. Try to make something that is not only profitable, but useful. If your project is utilized and appreciated, you will certainly find a way to monetize it.

Now I’d like to hear you experiences? Are you going to launch a new project? Have you already had experiences with online business in the design market?

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Sebastiano

Howdy! I'm a self taught graphic designer who loves to create amazing stuff using every kind of media. I'm currently living and working in Italy.

37 Comments

(+add yours)
  1. Great advise Sebastiano!! Thanks.

    • I’m glad you appreciate the article Nathan;-)

  2. Hello there! As a graphic designer in the misdt of creating and establishing a graphic design studio/business for myself, I found your article very inspiring. Fuel for the soul. Thanks.

  3. Thank you so much for this, from reading the following three parts, I find your story very inspiring! I’m also trying to gain traction and provide valuable resources. However with the design space becoming heavily crowded, its becoming very hard to stand out.

  4. Hi Sebastiano, i beg to differ about the ‘premium content’ concept, is it the only way to make money, because there are hundreds of thousands of sites offering free resources to budding designers like me, if everything would have been based on premium membership, i should have never thought of becoming a graphic designer in the first place, yes i agree with you on the quality aspect, since most of the free resources were not up to it… since i am quite new to this field i like to have your views on this, and by the way, “The best way to create a durable business is to find a niche.” is the best part of this article there, thanks a million for sharing your experiences with us, you guys are doing great…

    • He’s giving an example of offering something different. Offering premium conten for $7 a month is different than what’s out there. It makes it graspable by the majority of all designers. You don’t have to offer premium content.

  5. “Just start!”

    This is great advice, too many people wait for the ‘perfect’ time to start things. There is rarely a perfect time! Just get out there!

    Nice one Sebastiano

  6. Nice article… Points are considerable …!!

  7. Waiting for this third part for a long time. Great advices, thank you!

  8. Edgar

    Great article, very inspiring for newbies like me.

  9. Might as well just end yourself. Where’s the hope in starting your own business NOW?

    http://nightmarepixel.com/writing/shorts/stories/business.html

  10. whocares

    You changed the business partner link to make money. sad..

  11. Mike Lee

    Fantastic article, I’m in the very early stages of starting my own graphic design business and this article has really inspired me to knuckle down and get on with it. Thanks.

    • Also Graphic Design involves dlaieng with rejection. I’ve had times where I thought I designed great ad and the client wanted major changes to where I was unhappy, but they were happy with the end result. GD is not always about designing something fun and exciting, alot of times you get clients that bring you projects that are less then desirable. If you really have passion for this field you’ll be able to maintain those creative juices even on those occasional doldrum projects.

      • Flying Iris

        It is a business, you have to be able to deliver what the customer wants/needs. Can’t take it personally. Remember you can always let fly when you design do work for yourself.

    • KW

      Hi Mike
      Where are you doing your GD work?

  12. Karol

    Hello Sebastiano, after reading this I realize you gave me exactly the info I needed for my own project. You are giving guidance by concreting the process of becoming a self made artist. For my part I will take your great advice to become a music artist! I have studied all my life for it and want to show the true values with the approach of music.

    I thank you from Quebec :)

  13. karthik akoju

    Thank u sir.. for sharing ur expirince in online..

    Great ideas…

  14. KW

    Hi Sebastiano

    Your article above inspires me a lot!!! I am now working in a totally different field but would like to start something on my own. Especially you have said above ‘try not make something profitable, but useful’ It’s like sunrise for me!!!

    Graphic design certainly one of my interest, how would I get in touch more with people and client in this field?

    Thanks

    KW

  15. With the growing popularness of internet and the potential risks associated with it like malware, virues, spyware are the aboriginal reason why more and more companies, educational institutes and interlacement administrator have installed firewalls or web filtering software on their computer work stations. The other principal motivating agent for them to block these sites like facebook is to stop their pupil and employees to go to see these sites so that they don impair gradually their prolific time in the activities not connected to classroom assignments or work. Whatever is the reason it is very frustrating for a formal user of facebook to see an denied intimation on their computer shield.

  16. erkek olmak

    Thank you, I have not too long ago been searching for info approximately this topic for any long time and yours is the greatest I’ve located out till now. Having said that, what about the conclusion? Are you positive about the source?

  17. Flying Iris

    Thanks, this was very enlightening. I am in my 50′s and just beginning to turn professional. I have doing this for years for my own businesses. Graphic art is my passion, and I have recently begun formal training in web graphics. This is info not found in any class.

  18. Jade

    This is fantastic, just what I needed to know. Thanks! :D

  19. Aubrey B.

    I luv graphic design a TON! I studied it in school a couple of weeks ago and I was hooked! I have been wanting 2 start my own business 4 a while now, but I didn’t no how until I found this site, and I must say it is AWESOME! thnx if u read this it will be much appreciated!

    -AB-

  20. This is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

  21. Vannica

    Hello, I am a college student studying to be a graphic designer but while I am in the process of getting my degree, I wanted start freelancing for experience and to build a portfolio. I still have much to learn but I feel like I have adequate knowledge to start small for the sake of experience and understanding the world of designing for clients. I wanted to know if this is a good idea and if you had an advice for a budding designer.

  22. sohila zadran

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  23. Vivek

    This is what i really want … a good advise nd suggestion
    Many Thanks

  24. Bless peter

    Can somebody who is not an artist do graphic designing?

  25. Ana

    grazie Sebastiano.

  26. Nesrine

    Thank you Mister Sebastiano for your efforts and the time spent to give us from your knowledge
    My question is : i intend to start the journey for being a graphic designer , but what stop me are the tools , i can’t use photoshop or illustrator , since i can not buy them ! , and i work with inkscape and Gimp , so what i want to know , can using this tools make me a good or great graphic designer ?

  27. What’s up, I desire to subscribe for this weblog to obtain most up-to-date updates, therefore where can i do it please
    help.

  28. I like reading through an article that can make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  29. We are a group oof volunteers and starting a neww scheme in ouur community.
    Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive
    job andd ourr whole community will be thankful to you.

  30. Amazing blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out.

    Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks a lot

  31. I definitely agree to separate yourself from other graphic designers. Everyone that I know in my area is a “graphics designer” & are no different than the rest of them. Niche research is always the key to targeted marketing.

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